The first church on this site of Bern Minster probably was a small chapel built during the founding of Bern (1191). By the 15th century, Bern had expanded and become a major city-state north of the Alps. To celebrate their growing power and wealth, the construction of new church began in 1421.
During the first phase, Matthäus Ensinger, a foreman from Ulm, was in charge of the project. The construction took over 150 years, and generations of foremen, sculptors and stonemasons worked on the important monument. It was hard work and there were strict rules: the main goal of late Gothic architecture was to have a building of predetermined dimension and with as much light as possible. The craftsmen achieved an impressive space by connecting the entire inside space, using a special building technique and carefully proportioning the windows.
In the 16th century, the third stage of the build came to an end. The spire was only 50 metres high, so the Minster looked quite different among the houses of the Old City. Construction had to stop because the ground was not stable and there were some financial problems. Later on, the impressive spire was built in the Gothic style and reached its final height. Switzerland’s largest late medieval church was completed in 1893. It was made almost completely out of Bernese sandstone, with the exception of the top part of the spire.
The most famous feature of the Bernese Minster is the exceptional main portal. Erhart Küng, a sculptor and foreman from Westphalia, made the sandstone masterpiece that depicts the Last Judgement. There are 294 sculptures: prophets, angels with trumpets, Jesus Christ as Judge of the Nations, Lady Justice (added after the Reformation), martyrs and damned souls showed the believers what the day of the Last Judgement would look like.
You can visit the Minster to enjoy the unique ambiance inside the building, listen to the sound of the organs, attend a protestant service, look at the medieval architecture or enjoy the view from the platform at the top of the spire – the church and the spire of the Minster are open daily, year-round. Make sure you check the official opening hours.References:
The city walls of Avila were built in the 11th century to protect the citizens from the Moors. They have been well maintained throughout the centuries and are now a major tourist attraction as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visitors can walk around about half of the length of the walls.
The layout of the city is an even quadrilateral with a perimeter of 2,516 m. Its walls, which consist in part of stones already used in earlier constructions, have an average thickness of 3 m. Access to the city is afforded by nine gates of different periods; twin 20 m high towers, linked by a semi-circular arch, flank the oldest ones, Puerta de San Vicente and Puerta del Alcázar.